Second Languages, Part Deux

Here’s where we left off in ‘le premier part’:

My other studies led me to brief forays in Italian, German, Latin, and soon, Arabic. Throughout it all, I wondered how it was changing me, this constant attention to other languages. Okay, I’ll occasionally throw in a Turkish hedging technique (şey, yani) and I apparently believe that lights and computers are now open or closed rather than on or off, but apart from that, did my relationship to English or thought change?

The languages I’ve studied had strange new rules, fun pronunciation, and interesting idioms…but what did that all get me? What did I gain beyond the practical issues of eating, drinking, or buying souvenirs while on vacation? Did these languages add anything more significant to my life, even if I’m not using them on a regular basis? What can I take away that will increase my understanding not only of myself, but of all of us? Continue reading

Second Languages, le premier part…

(I’ve been trying to figure out where this is going for months…okay, that makes it sound like I’ve been at it day and night, which isn’t really true. But I am tired of tinkering with this first half and so I’ll just post it so I can finally move onto the rest.)

When people ask me how many languages I know, I always say “One – just English.” I have been fortunate enough to have studied and learned a lot about other languages, but I never feel that I truly know languages other than English. Our native tongues always feel like home, and while we can learn to be comfortable in other houses, towns, even countries, nothing every quite feels like home. I can speak other languages to varying degrees, and I’ve learned about even more languages beyond that, but do I really know another language? Does that question even have an answer? Can I know a language even without being perfect in the grammar and vocabulary? I don’t have the answers for the moment, but I’ve been wanting to start learning another language (methinks it’s going to be Arabic) and so I’ve been reflecting on the languages that have been important to me over the years. Continue reading